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Lincoln Chafee Abandons Presidential Campaign. Public Asks, 'Lincoln Who?'

The former senator and governor of Rhode Island — a Republican turned Independent turned Democrat — announced this morning that he was no longer a candidate for president after attracting negligible support.

by Liz Fields
Oct 23 2015, 3:20pm

Photo by Stephan Savoia/AP

Lincoln Chafee, former Rhode Island senator and governor and self-proclaimed "block of granite" on political issues, has scrapped his presidential ambitions for 2016, leaving just three Democratic candidates to seize hold of the zero-to-one percent polling he enjoyed from supporters during his long-shot campaign.

"After much thought I have decided to end my campaign for president today," Chafee declared to a crowd at a Democratic women's forum on Friday morning. "But I would like to take this opportunity one last time to advocate for a chance be given to peace (sic)."

Chafee's announcement came just days after fellow Republican-turned-Democrat Jim Webb dropped out of the race. The public and the media roasted both candidates over their poor performances at the first Democratic debate earlier this month, where Chafee made one of the most eyebrow-raising statements of the night.

In answer to moderator Anderson Cooper's question on why Chafee chose as a US senator to vote in 1999 to repeal Glass-Steagall, the 1933 law that separated commercial and investment banking activities, Chafee pleaded that it was his "very first vote," and that his father had died shortly before he had arrived in the Senate. "I think we all get some takeovers," he said.

"What does that say that you cast a vote about something you didn't know about?" Cooper persisted.

"I think you're being a little rough," was Chafee's answer.

As a Republican, Chafee clashed with his fellow GOPers on a range of issues, including gay marriage, abortion, the minimum wage, and the death penalty. He was also notably the lone Republican to vote against the Iraq war resolution in 2002. Being the odd kid out, Chafee was sometimes called "the missing Linc" by fellow Republicans. But on the night of the debate, he was unquestionably "the weakest Linc."

That night Chafee described himself as an immovable block of granite when Cooper asked why the public should trust a politician who first identified as a Republican, then as an Independent, and later as a Democrat. The line spawned some infectious memes on social media, which also took no time in siring the hashtag #FeelTheChafe — a spin-off of the popular chant "feel the Bern" attributed to Bernie Sanders supporters.

Chafee left the Republican Party in 2007 and ran as an independent governor in 2010. It was actually 2016 presidential hopeful Martin O'Malley, the third remaining presidential candidate alongside Hillary Clinton and Sanders who was then the chair of the Democratic Governors Association, who convinced Chaffee to switch to the Democratic camp in 2013.

Throughout his ill-fated 2016 campaign, Chafee barely registered with voters, and managed to only raise a meager $15,000 in the third quarter — more than $4,000 of which was his own money. Even after the announcement Friday, "Who is Lincoln Chafee?" continued to be one of the top phrases registering among Google's trending search terms on the former candidate, followed by "Who does Lincoln Chafee look like?" and "Why is Lincoln Chafee running?"

To the latter question, the public is really still not sure.

Follow Liz Fields on Twitter: @lianzifields